We are talking about your cities and countries – where do we start?
In New York. I love coming back to this metropolis over and over again.
I came to New York for the first time in 2010. My first thoughts were how crazy it is here. Of course in a positive way. The energy of this city pushes you.
How well do you know New York City?
I have seen many places here. From the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty – all these places look like in a movie, it seems unreal.
You have been to the Hamptons as well. . .
I have practiced there several times. I have some acquaintances in the Hamptons who have huge mansions with tennis courts. It is also a gorgeous area with awesome homes, beach and great restaurants. It’s an expensive area though.
What other favourite cities do you have in the US?
For sure Miami. This is probably the city I have spent most of my time. It all started with the Orange Bowl for the under 12 year-olds.
Please tell us!
That’s when I met Gabe Norona for the first time. We were invited to stay at his house during the Orange Bowl. I went to Florida with Dad, we rented a car, without a GPS at that time, unfortunately. We were driving around for hours taking wrong turns at least five times. An odyssey, we arrived at Gabe’s sometime after midnight.
Do you like Miami?
The atmosphere of this city is special, a real melting pot. The ongoing summer feeling pushes you literally.
What about other US cities?
I have a lot of good memories of places like Houston, Dallas, Washington, Cincinnati and Los Angeles. California has a lot to offer. Hollywood, Santa Monica Beach, the Walk of Fame – that’s cool!
What about Malibu?
That’s fascinating! When I got there for the first time, I thought I had arrived in a dream world. It’s understandable that so many Hollywood stars live there.
Which other cities would like to visit in the US?
Certainly Las Vegas. I don’t gamble but I would love to see that crazy casino world. Nothing is normal there. To spend a few days in Las Vegas seems to be pure entertainment.
Could you imagine living in the States?
No, not at all. I enjoy being in America but after some weeks I look forward to coming back to Europe and my home.
Where do we continue our trip?
We are going to Mexico! This country means a lot to me. I have had so many unforgettable moments there.
One would be your victory at the Acapulco 500 . . .
Yes, but I would like to go back even further. In my junior years I played the Yucatan tournament three times and I won twice. An incredibly cool tournament. With night sessions, 1.500 – 2.000 fans in the stands each day. In November in 2010 I beat my friend Dennis Novak in threes sets. You never forget a match like that …
Why do you perform so well in Mexico?
Life is buzzing, you can feel the passion literally everywhere and the good food – maybe it is this mix that motivates me that much. Acapulco is mega-cool and that’s not just because I won there.
Brazil is buzzing as well.
I have a special relation to Rio de Janeiro. From 2016 to 2020 I played there each year, this city is famous and legendary.
. . . . and dangerous?
Yes, you need to be alert all the time when you are in Rio. That’s why I only use the official tournament shuttles, you need to be extremely careful in the evenings. However, Rio has so many nice places to offer: Copacabana Beach, Sugarloaf Mountain, and flamboyant houses. Everything is worth seeing.
Have you ever played soccer on Copacabana Beach?
Yes, in the meantime I´ve got to know some people in Rio, I was even there with doubles specialist Ricardo Melo. You need company who knows the way around town, otherwise you get easily lost. The joie de vivre is tremendous, just as in Mexico, also the passion for sports. People play soccer on Copacabana Beach around the clock, even temperatures of 45°C don’t scare them off …
In Argentina sport is highly important as well.
Oh yes! By the way, Buenos Aires is one of my most favourite destinations. The people are highly active and sport enthusiasts. The tennis matches at the 250-tournament go well into the night, so it is no surprise when you leave the club at 2 in the morning. On the way back to the hotel you pass many parks and it is as busy as during the day. Cheering, floodlight, matches – in Buenos Aires people play soccer until breakfast time.
There is a soccer experience of Buenos Aires you will never forget.
Together with Diego Schwartzmann we played soccer-tennis before a regular soccer match at La Bombers Stadium, in the center of the field. Thousands of Boca Junior fans were partying in the stands. This was an incredibly awesome experience, something you cannot buy with money.
I always played my best tennis in France!
Tell us something about other cities and countries in South America.
I remember an exciting tour as a junior in 2009. I had to spend New Year’s Eve in a hospital in Costa Rica. Food poisoning! I have been to Venezuela, I saw the carnival in Barranquilla, Colombia, and I have gathered some experience in Ecuador and Peru. Athletically this tour paid off: I was qualified for a Grand Slam tournament for the first time.
A lot of impressions for a teenager.
If you play tennis on such a level, you will experience a lot. It is a true privilege. As an 18 year-old I have seen the entire world – that’s when you learn for life.
Why is Morocco so important for you?
I always performed well there. I won my first two Future tournaments in Morocco. And my only two Challenger tournaments.
How would you describe the country?
Morocco has a lot of history, a diverse landscape, and so many unique places. I always felt well there, the people are welcoming and friendly.
Let’s go from Africa to Asia.
There’s is a lot to tell. In my junior years I played in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Manila. After turning pro I also played in Chengdu, Shanghai, Tokyo and Beijing. You could say I am an expert on Asia.
You were missing success on that continent for a long time, right?
Unfortunately! It just seemed it wouldn’t work. In 2019 I eventually managed to win my first tournament in Beijing. I hope this changed a lot. All of a sudden I played a lot better and with relief at the Shanghai 1000.
What is your number one city in Asia?
There is nothing better than Tokyo, I think it’s one of the best cities in the world. Extremely beautiful, green gardens, a lot of culture, clean, excellent food and friendly people. Tokyo is cool!
Do you know the attractions?
The extreme crowd at the Shibuya intersection comes to my mind immediately. Unique. So many people, so many bizarre sights, incredible vistas – you need a lot of time to grasp Tokyo. As a tennis pro you hardly have that time …
The tour in Asia is tightly scheduled.
After a few weeks in fall everything is over and we go back to Europe. However, tennis has developed an incredible market, the people love our sport.
What are your plans for the Asia tour for the next years?
Beijing gave me an unexpectedly big push, I want more. I definitely have enough space for more trophies from China or Japan.
You barely missed your first Grand Slam victory in Australia in January 2020. Welcome to Melbourne . . .
No doubt about it, Melbourne is one of my most important cities. This has got nothing to do with my final in 2020 – it’s just the fact that there is a Grand Slam in Melbourne.
What should you know about Melbourne?
Well, Melbourne is in the southeast of Australia, it is the capital of Victoria. It has a nice town center with lots of restaurants and bars, for me the center is the Yarra River. If you go out of town by car for an hour, you can see koalas and kangaroos. I like those kinds of zoos best.
What’s different from Sydney?
You can barely compare these cities. Sydney is legendary, the world famous opera house at the seaside is the eye-catcher par excellence, the quarter at the harbour is unique. For us Austrians Australia is at the other end of the world, getting there is exhausting. However, in January it is summer.
Summer? Doesn’t that mean beach? . .
I have been to Bondi Beach. Typically white beach that is part of Sydney. Well known around the world because the reliable waves attract thousands of surfers each day. It is a natural paradise, you can only be easy going there. It’s a magic place.
You have also played in New Zealand?
I played in Auckland in 2015. I lost in the first round to Jan-Lennard Struff by 3:6 in the third set. However, the country is impressive, just everything. It is one of the most beautiful countries, with an incredible landscape and picturesque scenery. It seems everything is still in order there.
Have you discovered New Zealand?
I went on a trip with Ernests Gulbis to Waiheke Island. Great! We rode mopeds around the island, just for fun and a perfect distraction before the Australian Open in order to get your mind free again.
That sounds like a vacation, but don’t spend you yours on the Maldives?
You can have the ultimate holiday feeling there, I know because I´ve been there twice. The Maldives are considered the perfect destination in the tennis circuit, at the end of November you will run into a lot of colleagues …
What was your best vacation?
Maybe Iceland after the Masters in 2019. It was a spontaneous trip with my brother Moritz. We spent a lot of time together but we didn’t have a single disagreement. We are really, really close!
The hotel was awesome, the scenery is breathtaking. We were overwhelmed. Spectacular volcanoes, geysers, thermal springs and lava fields – you can hardly believe it. We went around in ATVs, it seemed as if we were racing through a film set. We treated ourselves to a helicopter flight, those are memories for life.
Do you enjoy it quiet and peaceful in the off-season?
I sometimes relaxed in Sardinia, Mykonos or Ibiza with friends. This is also attractive, however, I prefer it quiet. Well, this makes me think of a trip to Sylt. This is also a unique place, you cannot compare this north Frisian island with anything else. The vast beaches are ideal for running, you can hardly stop gazing at the dunes.
Do you like Germany?
Certainly, of course. I have many friends there, actually since my teenage years. The tournaments in Germany are perfectly organized, there are never any issues. Be it Hamburg, Stuttgart or Munich, tennis has a long tradition in these noble cities, the fans know a lot.
What is your relation with England?
I know this country for three reasons: Wimbledon, soccer and the Masters in London. England has its own charm, a lot of history and you won’t be able to bypass all the tradition anywhere.
London isn’t just an oasis for soccer?
It’s a metropolis like New York. You can get anything in London, the city has been becoming more and more modern, magnificent buildings dominate the city center. Everything is extremely clean, disciplined, but there are also crazy quarters. Not to forget: the enthusiasm for sport in general seems to be without limits …
Madrid or Barcelona?
Spontaneously I’d say Barcelona. It is a buzzing city and within a couple of minutes you can be on the beach. The romantic lanes around La Rambla are gorgeous, the architecture is surprising and inspiring. In 2019 I own the 500 tournament on clay, I will always remember Barcelona.
Let´s go to Italy . . .
I could write a separate chapter on Italy. I won my first international title as a junior in Porto San Giorgio. This was a proud moment! In 2013 I reached my first final on the Challenger level in Comeo, but unfortunately I lost to Pablo Carrero Basta by 2:6, 7:5, 0:6.
In May 2017 you showed up Rafael Nadal in two sets in the quarterfinal in Rome.
This was an unbelievable match, I played like in a flow. Rome is an extremely highly respected tournament: on those historical courts you can feel the closeness of the fans, the atmosphere on center court is extreme. The fans celebrate enthusiastic tennis parties.
What is your most favourite place in Rome?
It is no piazza in the town center, no restaurant and not even the Spanish Stairs. I would rank the show court with the statues as number one. There is no other court as beautiful as this one.
Last but not least let’s go to France.
Regarding tennis I have had most of my success in France. I like the French clay as I have proven several times. There are tournament victories in Nice and Lyon, two finals at the French Open. One day I hope I can win Roland Garros.
What is your recipe for success at the French Open?
As a junior I reached the final at Roland Garros, I had impressive matches there as a pro. I have spent several months of my life in Paris and I always look forward to going back there. After landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport my heart beats faster immediately.
How is life in Paris?
Of course the main focus is on tennis, but off court I try to enjoy as much time as possible in town. I like showing my friends the nicest places and each and every time you discover something new. Somehow Paris always reminds me of Vienna. And to me Vienna is the most beautiful city in the world.
But you do not live in Vienna, do you?
No, but I don’t live that far away. I meet my friends in Vienna, I know each district, almost every street. There is no trouble, security is exemplary, you can walk through the street at night without worry. That’s why Vienna is one of the most popular places in the world.